In His Own Words Fr. John Cioppa Maryknoller in Hong Kong.
In 1972 shortly after he was released from a Chinese prison Bishop James Walsh was at the Kai Tak airport waiting for a plane to take him to the US. He said, "Here I am waiting again. In 1950 I waited to be sentenced to jail, I waited for 20 years to be released, and now I am waiting again. I have spent half of my life waiting." He was not angry. He was just commenting , relaxed and smiling. "Waiting " for Bishop Walsh had become his spirituality. He had integrated waiting into his life. He was not anxious or worried. He had learned that waiting also meant hope.
Some researchers say we spend about 8 years of our life "waiting". A mother waits 9 months for her child to be born, another year waiting for him to walk and five years more before going to school. We wait to see the doctor. We wait to pay bills, wait for exam results, wait for job interviews and wait to get married.We even wait to die. I hope Jesus doesn't keep us waiting at heaven's door. Waiting brings fear and anxiety but it also brings hope and joy: a new child born, release from prison, high exam marks.
The Jews waited 500 years for the Messiah to come; 40 more years with Moses wandering in the desert and 50 years in captivity in Babylon longing to be back home in the Holy Land. Life for the Jews seemed to be one waiting after another. And as we know they are still waiting.
I believe waiting has a very profound meaning. It is a deep-seated longing for our hearts and souls to go home. Waiting is basically homesickness. We are restless and anxious and can never settle down because the place we are standing is not home. Saint Augustine put it well when he said, "Our hearts were made for God and they will not rest until they are again with God."
I thing that is what Advent is all about. It's a reminder that we are on a journey- a long journey back to the Father. We wander in a strange place searching for the road home. We long to be back again with our Father. If you have even been homesick, you know what I mean. Advent is a reminder that we live our lives in ambiguity. We live in the presence of God, yet live in the expectation of His coming again. We celebrate His coming but wait and long for Him to be with us again. Somehow deep in our souls there is a memory of being with God . Advent reminds us that we live in that memory hoping and anxious to be with God again. That was the feeling of Jesus when He was on earth and that is the spirit of Advent. A waiting with hope .That hope also brings peace and joy and that's what we celebrate on Christmas.
Waiting makes us uncomfortable and brings with it feelings of fear, anxiety, loneliness and helpless. But it also brings with it hope, joy and new life. Advent reminds us that we are homesick and our hearts will not be in peace until they are again with the Lord. Advent is not a sad time. It is a time of hope, a time to feel the peace and joy of the Lord who is here, but has yet to come.